Sterling Heights — Luca Filippi has some big shoes to fill.
He's making his debut in the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, driving the No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter/Sarah Fisher Racing.
Two years ago, Mike Conway competed for Carpenter at Belle Isle, winning Race No. 1 and finishing third in Race No. 2. Last season, Conway crashed early in Race No. 1.
"I am a real race fan, following everything in motor sports and to be part of the Detroit Grand Prix is special," said Filippi, who is competing in 10 road and street course events this season while Carpenter runs ovals. "Formula One has been here, Champ Car, IndyCar, everything. This is one of the most glorious moments of my life."
Filippi participated in the Doug Guthrie Memorial Challenge, a go-kart event at Kart 2 Kart on Tuesday. The event is named for the former News auto writer who died in 2013.
"It's fun," Filippi said of the event. "We don't have too many opportunities to do this. It's part of our old days for everybody when we were running go-karts when we were young."
Filippi has competed in all but one of the six races this season — last weekend's Indianapolis 500 — and finished a season-high ninth in the opener at St. Petersburg, 10th at Louisiana and 11th at Alabama.
Carpenter, Will Power and Charlie Kimball took some hot laps at Belle Isle last week, and "loved how we took a lot of the kink out of the back straightaway to make it a better angle for braking in there," Grand Prix race director Bud Denker said.
Denker said the drivers were also impressed with other changes in the track.
"They loved the fact it's all concrete, what we added and not asphalt so it has good grip so it's going to be a fast track, new records," he said. "Even coming into the start-finish line there's a little curve there from Turn 13 where we moved the curve back six feet to allow cars to get two-by-two and side-by-side in there coming into Turn 1 for passing opportunities."
Fans can get a taste of the Grand Prix on Wednesday night with the Quicken Loans Grand Prix Street Fest at Campus Martius Park.
Activities start at 5 p.m., and drivers will be on hand to sign autographs.
There also will be a live performance by The Infatuations.
Admission is free.